To the casual observer, nothing was amiss: there was just this normal looking house in a suburban neighborhood of Miami. It was a roomy ranch house with a small front yard, pretty much like every other home in the area.
However, neighbors were whispering that something wasn’t quite right at 12485 Southwest 220 Street. They noticed that the couple who lived in the house were almost never home, and when they were, they seemed to be sneaking around. It was only later, after the police got involved, that the neighbors realized what the couple had to hide.
This was a typical south Florida neighborhood. Some neighbors were friends, some kept to themselves, and others passed the time gossiping about everyone else. But what about the people who lived at 12485 Southwest 220 Street? Folks here just seemed to have a bad feeling about this couple. Did they own the home? Were they tenants? Were they up to no good?
Police, too, felt that something was probably happening at 12485 Southwest 220 Street, that was illegal, but they couldn’t prove it. So, they gathered what little facts they had and applied for a warrant.
The police department got their warrant and started preparing for a major raid. They suspected drug activity.
When the SWAT team arrived a 12485, everything seemed pretty ordinary. The house looked like all the other homes. The couple who lived there were perhaps not the best housekeepers, but they had the same belongings as everyone else. At first, police were stumped. Did they get a bad tip?
Down the Hatc
That’s when police entered the master bedroom. Looking carefully, an officer saw something directly under the baby’s crib. Upon closer inspection, it became clear they had discovered a secret hatch cut into the floor. The hatch was covered by carpet, so it was barely visible to anyone who took a brief glance. Officers, however, knew they had hit pay dirt.
The officers went down the hatch, which led to a cramped flight of steps under the ground. That’s where police discovered a small fortune in marijuana. Dozens of pot plants were hanging from the ceiling. There were plenty of supplies, like fertilizers and chemicals, stocked in the space as well. And yes, the couple had placed their pot empire directly underneath their baby’s bed.
After examining every inch of the secret space, police confiscated 31 pounds of pot, with an estimated street value of $108,000! As the nosy neighbors watched from their front yards, more rumors began to spread.
Turns out another couple was hiding a secret that day. Yamile Gongar, 38, and her boyfriend Luis Gonzalez, 41, lived just a few houses down the street from number 12485. They seemed like a normal family, with two daughters, ages eight and 17. But they were busy building up their own secret stash.
As Gongar and Gonzalez watched the police raid the first pot house, they felt confident that their secret was safe. Little did they know, the police had received another tip. About them.
In the Yard
When the SWAT team searched inside the Gonzalez house, they didn’t find anything. They were curious, however, about the family swimming pool, which looked as if it had been installed upside down.
Sure enough, police were onto something. They first searched the shed in the backyard, where they discovered an entry to an underground lab located right beneath the pool. The Gonzalez’s lab was similar in setup, but much larger in scale. The room was filled with pot plants.
The Gonzalez family had hundreds of pot plants growing in carefully constructed hydroponic gardens, all under the ground. They had also installed an illegal electricity system in order to run the operation. There were massive stores of chemicals underground as well. The chemicals could have easily ignited an explosion if the electrical work had malfunctioned.
A Secret Compartment
The Gonzalez family, it turns out, had hired a man with a backhoe to dig out a large pool. Once the hole was in the ground, the pool shell was placed upside down. They covered it with dirt and grass. Under the pool was their secret lab, which was only reachable through the shed.
The couple spared no expense in creating their marijuana lab. They even had plants hanging from the walls. The electricity plugged straight into the homeowner’s power box, which was illegal and dangerous. The tunnel had to have been dug using large equipment. So the question for police was how the neighbors managed not to notice all of the digging and shady behavior at the home?
When the local news station interviewed the neighbors, they made it clear that they knew nothing about the grow houses. They said they were completely shocked. The police, however, thought that made no sense. Two houses had dug holes and tunnels on their property. An upside down pool is also hard to miss.
Miami-Dade Police spokesman Roy Rutland wasn’t buying it. “That is a telltale sign,” he said of the pool. “In this case, we’re confident that somebody would have seen them dig that large hole for a pool but never, in fact, install a pool.”
The Gonzalez raid recovered around 30 pot plants, equivalent to about 70 pounds of marijuana. The value of the drugs was around $250,000! In total, the police recovered over 100 pounds of pot worth $350,000, just from raiding two houses on the same suburban street.
Since the Gonzalez couple had two children living in the middle of their drug operation, the kids were taken away and sent to live with relatives. The suspects were arrested and held in lieu of a $25,000 bond. The police made it clear they would be keeping a permanent eye on Southwest 220 Street. They explained to the neighbors that they doubted the story of total ignorance. They urged the neighbors to cooperate with law enforcement if anything more was discovered.
Conspiracy or Coincidence
The police determined that the two houses were not related to each other, despite their similarities. Some people insist the two houses had to be part of a larger operation, but there seems to be no proof of this claim. It’s as if the two homes with underground pot labs on the same street were just a coincidence, not a conspiracy.
Someone must have known exactly how to build a lab and successfully grow plants. Police have not ruled out the possibility that the labs were built by one person. Perhaps a general contractor who hires himself out to drug dealers? Police remain concerned. They discovered a third grow house at 583 Southeast 1st Street in Hialeah. It was the biggest pot bust yet, yielding over 100 pounds of pot worth about $400,000.